Greenspoint Is Undergoing Major Changes But It’s Not Quite Houston’s New Hotspot Just Yet

Crime is down and development up in the north Houston area many still refer to as “Gunspoint”


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Many people still call it "Gunspoint" – an area in the north of Houston, where Interstate-45 meets the Beltway. Its real name, of course, is Greenspoint, and a new branding campaign by the management district wants the area to be known simply as North Houston.

Statistics show crime has gone down in the past few years and there has been some major investment in the area – more than $400 million in developments, including $100 million in office space.

But are the bad times really behind for Greenspoint?

A promotional video shown at an event to introduce the North Houston District's campaign calls the area "an urban centric location with lots of hustle and bustle, thriving every day."

As part of it, the district is highlighting recent developments, like a new Coca Cola distribution plant under construction.

And at the site of the former Exxon offices, next to the Greenspoint Mall a new lounge for the tenants and employees of the office buildings, called The Third Place at City North, features ping pong, a putting green, pool tables, television screens and a kitchen area.

And that's just a part of the improvements here, said Michael Kasmiersky, vice president of property management for Lincoln Property Co.

"We're spending about $4 million in the exterior of the retail, we're redoing the façade, adding landscaping, seating, bocce ball. We'll have music, we'll have Wi-Fi," he said. "Just trying to really improve this area and really improve this complex."

The North Houston Development Corporation, a tax increment reinvestment zone or TIRZ, is currently building a new bike race park that will host the 2020 BMX world championship.

Sally Bradford, executive director of the development corporation, said they have done major infrastructure improvements and added public art all over the Greater Greenspoint area.

"We're trying to really make this a place where people come (and) they go, wow, I didn't realize this is so nice out here," Bradford said. "And it takes time and it's challenging."

One challenge is the many subpar apartment complexes.

Steve Moore, owner of Villa Serena Communities, which manages 14 apartment complexes in the area, has been trying to take care of that problem.

"I moved into one of my apartments," he told News 88.7. "I started working with HPD and instead of us blaming the cops and them blaming the apartment owners, we started working together and that's what turned around the neighborhood."

But has it turned around the neighborhood?

The North Houston District analyzed crime stats from the Houston Police Department. The most serious crimes – or Part 1 offenses – went down across Houston between 2010 and 2018. The police beat just north of Beltway 8, which covers a large part of Greenspoint, went from the Houston beat with the third most crimes to 19th. Offenses dropped by 30 percent in those eight years.

But that's not the reality for everyone in the area.

Mauricio Rodriguez said he has lived at Biscayne at Cityview apartments for the past five years. It's one of Steve Moore's Villa Serena communities, but Rodriguez said he has actually seen more crime in the past two or three years, mostly car burglaries, and he's hearing gunshots at night.

His brother was robbed down the street just this year, Rodriguez said.

"One day he (went) to the gas station and somebody put (a) gun in his back," he said. "And he (took all his) money."

One of Rodriguez's neighbors, Alvin West, feels safe in Greenspoint – although his reference point is Compton, California, where he moved from three years ago.

"Well, I saw a few small things happen," he said. "I saw a store get robbed. I saw a few fights but nothing major, you know. And I heard someone got shot on the bus stop. But where I'm from, the things that I saw and heard of here would happen once a year compared to every day where I'm from."

University of Houston architecture professor Susan Rogers, who directs the Community Design Resource Center, said housing is the biggest challenge in an area with one of the highest poverty rates in the city.

"The fact that this neighborhood provides 11,000-plus units, that that housing is an important part of our collection of affordable housing in the city and that a lot of people who live there are very vulnerable," Rogers said.

Then there's the Greenspoint Mall. Once the thriving center of the neighborhood, it's now without any major retailers.

On a recent afternoon, the large parking lot was nearly empty. Shopper Bridget Jones said she still comes here fairly often.

"The mall, I don't know," she said. "It's like going down, yeah. It ain't used to be like this at the mall. It's nothing in there no more."

She's worried it will shut its doors completely, in which case she would have to drive far to go shopping.

Greg Simpson, president of the North Houston District, said the district has no control over what happens with the mall, but he's optimistic.

"There may not be a better redevelopment opportunity in the entire city," he said. "We know that there's been interest in that site over the last few years. We're hopeful that something will happen there and I believe over time something will. It's just the nature of development in Houston. It's just too good of a site."

Jerry Davis, the city council member for this area, also feels optimistic for the future of Greenspoint, acknowledging that it's not quite where it should be.

"It's no different from any other area," he said. "It's going to take time, it's going to take effort – effort from the people, effort from the local government corporations and effort from the businesses. And when we all come together and work together, we can have success."

And a big part of that, Davis said, is improved drainage. Greenspoint was one of the worst affected areas during the Tax Day flood of 2016, and then again during Hurricane Harvey.

And so part of the debate is whether to buy out many of the apartment complexes next to Greens Bayou.

And the next question is then: Where would all those residents go?

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